Rissa tridactyla subsp.

Status:  Rare casual spring migrant statewide. Rare regular fall migrant statewide.

Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM16143, 20 or 21 May 1990 adult Lake McConaughy, Keith Co. (Johnsgard 1990, Grenon 1991).

Taxonomy: There are two subspecies, tridactyla of the North Atlantic, including eastern Canada, and pollicaris of the North Pacific, including western Alaska (Gill and Donsker 2017).

Interior records are most likely referable to pollicaris, which is a vagrant to the Gulf of Mexico, although tridactyla has occurred in Michigan (Olsen and Larsson 2004).

It has been suggested that the two subspecies differ genetically and biologically to the extent that specific status for each may be justified (see Howell and Dunn 2007, Hatch et al 2020).

MoltsMost reports from Nebraska and surrounding states are of first cycle kittiwakes (juvenile or first alternate plumages) found during late fall and early winter. Adults are in second or later plumage cycles, beginning the second cycle with first basic plumage (Howell 2010).

Spring:  Of eight reports, only three are documented:

28 Mar 2011 first alternate Lake McConaughy (Brogie 2012)

20-21 Apr 1981 immature Lancaster Co (Schrad 1981)

20 or 21 May 1990 adult (specimen cited above).

Additional undocumented reports are Mar 1932 Lancaster Co (Hudson 1937), Apr 1976 Lancaster Co, 23-24 Apr 1993 Douglas-Sarpy Cos, 4 May 1991 Hall Co, and 21 Jun 1991 Holt Co.

Fall:  Oct 30, Nov 3, 4 <<<>>> Dec 8 (Brogie 2011), 9, 10

The 24 Nebraska reports, most documented, fall within the period 24 Oct-29 Jan, with 11 in the short period 14 Nov-5 Dec.

There is an earlier record of an adult at Gavin’s Point Dam, Cedar Co 24 Oct-8 Nov 2002 (Brogie 2003, where typo shows 2 Oct; Brogie 2005), and later records 17-18 Dec 1999 adult Harlan Co Reservoir, Harlan Co (Jorgensen 2001), 23 Dec 1991 first basic (second cycle) Johnson Lake SRA, Dawson and Gosper Cos (Gubanyi 1996), an adult at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 1-2 Jan 2016 (Silcock 2016, Brogie 2017), a juvenile at Sutherland Reservoir, Lincoln Co 3 Jan 2011, and an adult at Kingsley Dam, Keith Co 29 Jan 2000 (Jorgensen 2002).

One of the earlier dates cited above is of a “near-adult” at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 4 Nov 2012 (Brogie 2013).

One at Lake Zorinsky, Douglas Co 2 Oct 2018 was not accepted by NOURC as “inconclusive” (Brogie 2019).

  • High counts: 4 at Gavin’s Point Dam 22 Nov 1998 and 3 there 5 Dec 1988.


SRA: State Recreation Area
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum

Literature Cited

Brogie, M.A. 2003. 2002 (14th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 71: 136-142.

Brogie, M.A. 2005. 2004 (16th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 73: 78-84.

Brogie, M.A. 2011. 2010 (22nd) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 79: 99-111.

Brogie, M.A. 2012. 2011 (23rd) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 80: 112-122.

Brogie, M.A. 2017. 2016 (28th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 85: 128-142.

Brogie, M.A. 2019. 2018 (30th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 87: 96-109.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Grenon, A.G. 1991. 1991 (Fourth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 59: 150-155.

Gubanyi, J.G. 1996. 1992, 1993 (Fifth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 64: 30-35.

Hatch, S.A., G.J. Robertson, and P.H. Baird. 2020. Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Howell, S.N.G. 2010. Molt in North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachussetts, USA.

Howell, S.N.G., and J. Dunn. 2007. Gulls of the Americas. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, New York, USA.

Hudson, G.E. 1937. A sight record of the Atlantic Kittiwake for Lincoln, Lancaster County. NBR 5: 57.

Johnsgard, P.A. 1990. First Nebraska kittiwake specimen. NBR 58: 75.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2001. 1999 (Eleventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 69: 85-91.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2002. 2002 (sic; =2000). (12th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 70: 84-90.

Olsen, K.M., and H. Larsson. 2004. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey USA.

Schrad, D. 1981. (photograph) NBR 49: 42.

Silcock, W.R. 2016. Winter Field Report, December 2015 to February 2016. NBR 84: 2-24.

Recommended Citation:

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020. Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 24 Dec 2020